Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Making the most of seasonal produce

By Jenny

Part 1
Our household doesn't grow much food – our small garden has a very prolific lemon tree, which I love, lots of herbs (parsley, mint, oregano, thyme and rosemary), rhubarb and silver beet. In summer, we add basil and salad greens and chillies to the mix, but my husband doesn't like growing tomatoes. This year we grew pumpkins successfully. Our neighbour has a loquat tree which hangs over our fence, and which he doesn't pick. We planted a quince tree and a pomegranate tree last year, but it will be many years before they give us fruit.

Our pumpkin vines were very happy after a wet January

To make the most of seasonal produce I do a range of different things, which I will talk about in a series of posts.

First off, I make sure I know what is in season in our area – I didn't grow up with this information, but I have learned it over the years, and I am regularly reminded of it because I shop every week at our local farmer's market. You can pick up lots of valuable tips and information by talking to the vendors at these markets. 

Buyers and sellers at Canberra farmer's market

I go to the market with a menu plan and a shopping list, and I will occasionally change it if I see something very exciting or can't find what I am looking for. Because I take both the menu plan and the list with me to the market, I generally know what dish the substitute is for – so, if I can't find cauliflower for soup, I might decide to make pumpkin or potato soup, but if I wanted it for a stir fry or a vegetable curry, I might buy broccoli instead.

As I wander around the market I look to see what is new – are those the first quinces for the year? Is the asparagus man back? And I look at prices – tomatoes and capsicums are much cheaper in early autumn here, than in summer, so I buy them for weekly eating in summer and then buy by the case in autumn if I want to make harvest sauce or chutney or my favourite tomato kasundi. When I make my menu plan the following week, I remember what is appearing at the market (as well as what is coming to the end of its season), and plan accordingly. We like salads all year round, in our house, but tomato salads are for summer and autumn, and roast pumpkin salads start appearing in autumn and winter. Tomatoes are too expensive in winter, and don't taste as good as those grown in the sunshine in summer.

First kiwi fruit for the year

If you shop at a farmer's market, or a local greengrocer, or grow your own, you will learn what is in season in your area, when it is at it's best and cheapest. And the anticipation of those quinces, or figs, or asparagus, or that favourite tomato salad or roast parsnips will add to your enjoyment when the time finally comes. And it will do wonders for your budget. I wait all year for the opportunity to make my chicken, sausage, apple and plum casserole – and then I invite friends around to share it – which makes it even more special.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Vintage bunting from an old lace curtain

by Nanna Chel @ Going Grey and Slightly Green

Have you ever replaced your lace curtains that had become worn out or torn and wished you could re-use the parts of the curtain that were still in good condition? Well, here is an idea! Make some lace bunting as everything 'vintage' is very popular at the moment and it is quick and easy to make.

Firstly, have a look at the patterns on your lace and see if there is one that would be a suitable size for the bunting that you prefer. 

With this particular lace curtain the pattern at the top could be used and the ribbon or twine could be threaded through the turned over edge made for the curtain rod.

As there was also a smaller pattern at the bottom of the curtain which was more suited to the bunting size required then this pattern was chosen.

I laid some cardboard over the pattern and cut out a template so that each piece was the same size.

Then twine was threaded through the holes in the bottom edge of the lace although ribbon could be used instead depending on the desired effect.

This was fairly quick and certainly easy with no sewing required. 

It can be hung inside or outside to decorate for special occasions and when Christmas comes around just thread a ribbon through a hole at the bottom of the individual pieces and attach a bell and you have an excellent Christmas decoration as well.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Fruit and vegetable shopping bags

Hand or machine sewn with two seams

Fruit and vegetable shopping bags are lightweight, practical and kind to the environment. Use these bags when you buy fruit and vegetables, put in your produce and take home and put into the fridge. No changing bags and no rubbish or plastic bag pollution.

To make a bag, use a lightweight breathable fabric, such as old curtains, wide lace, tulle or any sheer type fabric that does not fray. There is hardly any weight in a homemade vegetable bag but do use the lightest material you have.

Use lightweight material.

Tulle is very good

How to make a vegetable bag

For this tutorial I am using light webbing that is usually put over a vegetable garden. 

1. Cut a piece of fabric double the size you would like your bag to be.

2. Fold over the side seam and sew. Use straight stitch or zig-zag, if you have an overlocker use that. Those who hand sew use a back stitch to make the bag strong.

3. 3. Fold the sewn fabric in half so the seam is in the middle - still inside out.

4. Sew along the bottom edge.

5. Done after only two seams.

You could edge the top and insert a drawstring but it adds weight. To close the top of the bag you can simply scrunch or clip the top when you put items in the crisper bin.

As well as the environmental benefit, using these bags keeps your vegetable/crisper bin clean and tidy. No need to rummage through the crisper to find what you have and no more little vegetables getting lost and wasted in bottom of crisper.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Homemade Mineral Make Up

by AlisonS

The corporate world and our social lives generally dictate that to fit in, women must cover their purported imperfections and mask their natural looks with make up.

The liquid foundations used in the past went on like paste and blocked pores. They contained a long list of chemicals and no one really knew much about them. The skin is the largest organ in the body and what we put on our skin can be absorbed directly into our body. We have realised in recent years, we have to be more careful.

Fast forward to the last ten years or so, and the new and improved mineral make up hit the scene. 

Mineral make up is so much better for our skin than the "old" foundations of past, they are generally made from good, natural ingredients and allows our skin to breathe. But even so, many of the marketed mineral foundations contain unnecessary ingredients that no one can pronounce, and a lot of them use talcum powder to bulk it out and make it more cost effective for the manufacturer.

Here is an example of one mineral make up product's ingredients:

Ingredient list: Mica, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Zinc Stearate, Boron Nitride, Zinc Oxide (CI 77947), Nylon 12, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Caprylyl Glycol, Isopentyldiol, Water (Aqua), MAY CONTAIN (+/-): Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Chromium Oxide Greens (CI 77288), Carmine (CI 75470) (chestnut light),Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140:1)

Not only is it important to know what we're putting on our skins and in our bodies, cost is a major factor. The mineral make up I used to buy cost around $60, and if you were to wear make up daily, no doubt you would need to buy two or possibly three of these a year.

Let me share my secret to having good mineral make up with no unnecessary ingredients and one that is very cost effective ... I make it myself. It has only six ingredients, and all with words I can pronounce easily. And the best part? It takes five minutes to make and I can tweak the colouring to exactly match my skin colour.

It is a little costly in the beginning to buy the ingredients, but they will last forever and have no expiry date. Plus, if you are a soap maker like myself, and like to play around with colours, you may already have most of the ingredients on hand. One of the ingredients I didn't have, and had to purchase, was zinc oxide. This is a great thing to have on hand as you can use it to make your own talc powder, and it is also the active ingredient in sunscreen. Just mix a little into your favourite moisturiser and it automatically becomes a sunscreen moisturiser!

Most (if not all) of the ingredients can be bought from soap making supply stores.

You may need some mini measuring spoons (like you would use for cheese making) to measure the colours. Otherwise, just do it by eye and gradually add the colouring.

Basic mineral make up recipe 

  • 4 tsp Titanium Dioxide **
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sericite Mica (this is what gives your face it's "glow")
  • 2 tsp Zinc Oxide
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/32 tsp (smidgen) Yellow Iron Oxide
  • 1/16 tsp (pinch) Brown Iron Oxide
  • 3/32 tsp (3 X smidgens) Red Iron Oxide
Simply mix ingredients together in a jar, then put through a tea strainer to get out any lumps. Store in a clean, airtight jar. Test on your face during daylight to best match your skin colour.

How to tweak your colouring:

  • Too dark? Add more titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or sericite mica.
  • Too light? Add more brown iron oxide. 
  • Too yellow? Add more red iron oxide. 
  • Too pink? Add more yellow iron oxide.
** There has been some discussion and research into the safety of titanium dioxide, in particular the inhalation of nanoparticles potentially being carcinogenic. We do not want to recommend any product that could potentially harm you, so we researched a bit further. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe for cosmetic use "in amounts consistent with good manufacturing practice", but we urge you to conduct your own research and make up your own mind.

Monday, 6 April 2015

How to make a watersaving olla

by Nanna Chel @ Going Grey and Slightly Green

I first heard about Ollas when I was reading Tania's blog a while back and was quite intrigued by them and keen to make some. Tania had a link to The Suburban Farm where there is an easy step-by-step tutorial for making an Olla which apparently is pronounced oh-yah but I watched a couple of YouTube videos and the presenters seem to pronounce it more like oi-yah. Tania used Liquid Nails Ceramic to fill in the hole in the bottom pot and to glue both pots together but when I went to the hardware store there was none there so I asked what would be a suitable non- toxic glue which would do the job and the very helpful salesman spent some time going through the different glues and reading the labels and thought that the Silaflex-11FC should do the trick. It is drinking water safe as well as potable water safe.

I bought some unglazed 17cm terracotta pots, put a small flat rock in the drainage hole of one of the pots then glued it in so that it would create a waterproof seal. I had a bit of trouble managing the caulking gun so my husband had to come to the rescue. He put glue around the top of the second pot….

…and then glued both pots together. 

 To make sure it sealed properly he spread the glue around both openings. Then it was left to dry for 24 hours.

The next day I filled the Olla with water to make sure that no water was leaking out around the glue before putting each one in a bucket of water for a while as had been suggested in an online tutorial. They were then ready to be buried in the vegetable patch and holes were dug deep enough to put them in so that only the tops were sticking out. Once in the ground they were filled with water through the hole in the top and a small rock was put over the hole of each one to prevent soil from getting inside.

To prevent evaporation some people paint the top of their pots so I experimented with a couple of them. I can’t say for sure if this helped as I had a painted one in the same section of the garden as an unpainted Olla but I did notice that they really came into their own during the hot days we had in spring and summer and feel they are a valuable addition to the garden. Mine had been in the ground for eight months and when I dug them up this week while digging over the vegetable patch they were still in good nick so I moved them to another area.